Friday, May 1, 2009

The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008; Kim Ji-woon)

This film is a lot of "seconds" for me. It is my second Kim Ji-woon film (the first being A Tale of Two Sisters which I obviously loved). It is my second venture into Asian westerns. While not a second, I will also say this is one of my many ventures into films starring Song Kang-ho (Memories of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, etc.) Now, with this film having connections with so many of my top ten, can it live up to the standards I have set for it?

The three main characters are of course the Good Guy, the Bad Guy, and the Weird Guy. They all end up on a hunt for the same map that may or may not be worth anything at all. As their struggle continues, more and more parties are brought into the mix, all trying to get ahold of the map for themselves.

This movie was a surprise on all accounts. Not only did I get everything I wanted from it, I got it in such an enjoyable package of comedy and inspirational action sequences that this is truly a film for the books. Enough of this love affair...

Starting off with the camera, I must say that Kim Ji-woon pulled out all the stops. His eye for color was well documented in A Tale of Two Sisters, but this particular title shows off some of his other skills. He manages to create some wonderful panoramic shots of the desert as well as a handful of wonderfully constructed set pieces for the action sequences. There is no flaw here.

The soundtrack is as equally stunning as the camera work. The music brings you back to the days of Westerns, but maintains a very modern feel to it to give itself its own identity. While a lot of aspects of this film are very obviously based on another film with a very similar title, that doesn't mean that this piece does not have enough to stand on its own. No flaw here either.

What's left? The acting? Please, this film stars three of South Korea's most prominent actors (as well as my favorite, Song Kang-ho whom I mentioned above). The only thing to drive people away from this movie is its lack of depth. I normally never bring this up, because usually the plot is enough to give that part away, but I thought I should address it at least once.

I was once told that you have directors who either are good at telling stories or are good at making you think and that the perfect directors are the ones who can bring those two together. I was never truly sold on that idea (it was an argument for David Lynch, who I am not a fan of). I feel you don't need to encapsulate both of those aspects into every film you make. I think all you need to do is find the balance of the two you are most comfortable in and make the best of it. You don't need to stump your audience or give them life changing realizations to make them enjoy your films. Let this be one of those that proves my point.

Score: 5/5

Notes: Kim Ji-woon's films are expensive, which is what is making it take so long for me to acquire them.